The 7th International Guwahati Film Festival opened with the screening of the Bangladeshi film Television. I was invited by a friend to the inaugural function which was followed by the screening of the film. The moment the inaugural function was over, I was ready to leave for home but my friend somehow convinced me to sit a while into the film. I had a preconceived notion about the idea of the idea why I wouldn’t watch a Bangladeshi film let alone appreciate their art. But twenty minutes into Television and I was reminded once more that art pervades all boundaries and it is still the only thing left un-polluted in the cacophony of noises all around.
Television is the tale of a man’s decision not to allow a television set in a village populated by a colorful palate of characters and how it affects his own life and the lives of all around him. Chairman Amin (Shahir Kazi Huda) is a respected man in his village and he is also the one who frames the rules by which the people should live in the village. He prefers a village free from cell phones and television as he believes them to be objects of self-destruction and impurity. His own son Solaiman(Chanchal Chowdhury) is a romantic lover who is head over heels in love with Kohinoor, a tech savvy girl who keeps advising him to use technology at his disposal to be in touch with her.
Majnu(Mosharraf Karim) is Solaiman’s servant who also happens to be in love with Kohinoor but Kohinoor has her heart set on Solaiman. As time passes on, one of the villagers of a different religion, unperturbed by Amin’s diktat, decides to buy himself a Television. The arrival of the television in the village sets afoot a series of events which culminates in Amin insulting Kohinoor in presence of the villagers. Kohinoor is crestfallen and orders Solaiman to stand up to his father’s diktat if he is to marry her. Majnu sees this as an opportunity to break Solaiman’s relationship with her and have her for himself. Solaiman breaks into rebellion against his father and his policies.
The arrival of the time of Haj also raises question on Amin’s no photographs policy as he himself is compelled to let take a snap of himself for the passport. Solaiman and Kohinoor soon patch up and then Solaiman asks for his father’s forgiveness for insulting him. Amin forgives his son and consents their marriage. He departs for the Haj pilgrimage soon after but as he arrives in Dhaka, he realizes to his utter dismay that he and many others have been swindled by the agents who promised them a trip to Mecca. He checks into a hotel and starts spending his days in agony thinking what the villagers would think of him if he returned without visiting Mecca. One morning he discovers the pilgrimage of Mecca being broadcast live on a Television set. He realizes the importance of imagination that he for so long considered impure. He realizes the power to be where one is not through his or her imagination and apparently makes peace with the Television.
Television is a sweet film with a lot of heart. It is one of those examples where the simplistic story is given heart and meaning by the superb performances. The rib-tickling situational comedy and the soulful performances are the primary reasons which make this film a worthy watch. The film’s story is something which we have come across before but what gives it a thrust are the geographical and socio-economic stereotypes that are so wonderfully interwoven in the narrative. The film also does well to keep an extremely balanced output in terms of entertainment and social message. It never for once gets preachy.
Shahir Kazi Huda leads the pack with his powerhouse performances. He shows tenderness to his character where necessary and portrays the irreconcilable tough guy with equal élan. There are moments where his essays could have easily gone overboard and taken a dramatic turn but he does well to keep his performance believable and real. Chanchal Chowdhury plays his dimwit son who is so hopelessly love with Kohinoor that he can’t differentiate day from night. When he is dumped by Kohinoor in his father’s context, his sorrow and misery is something which offers the most comic relief throughout the film. Mosharraf Karim is my favorite of the lot. He is hilarious as the smitten lover who is torn between his job at Solaiman’s and his love for Kohinoor. Look out for him in the scene where he confesses his love for Kohinoor in the presence of Solaiman. He is a source of constant comic relief. Nusrat Imroz Tisha is apt as the bubbly Kohinoor.
Television has forever changed my perception on Bangladeshi cinema. If this is to be an indication, Bangladeshi cinema is moving in the right direction. Plagued by financial crunches and other technical issues, a team of motivated individuals have not only been able to create a highly entertaining film put has also paved the way for people to make sensible and entertaining cinema without having the need to fluff it up with materials that come in with inflated budgets.